I went to a local Fourth of July parade on Friday. It was an interesting experience.
Like many American parades, there were large groups of people clustered together, some in lawn or camping chairs, to watch the festivities. Some children had plastic bags to catch the candy thrown to them. The smokers politely stayed in the back (largely), in an apparently voluntary gesture. They probably wanted to avoid the dirty looks or unpleasant encounters.
When the parade started, the first ten or fifteen minutes was led by a procession of military vehicles. Yes, there were a few veterans, but mostly, just military vehicles. One had a roughly fifteen-year-old boy air firing a loud machine gun mounted on the back of a jeep. I’m surprised my ears still aren’t ringing. There were amphibious vehicles, troop carriers, ambulances, etc.
This made me wonder: what are we looking at? What is being cheering for? To me, I am supportive of commemorating and remembering the sacrifices of soldiers for their country, and for freedom. But this was different. This was a showcase of the weapons of war, of the instruments of destruction, and even a celebration of them.
Bring the veterans along in peaceful clothes and peaceful vehicles. I honor their sacrifices and commitments. I honor the freedoms and liberties many of them believe they are fighting for (even if the conflict seems antagonistic to those interests to me personally). But I have a hard time with a celebration of military might and strength and power and force. I am not pleased with offensive weaponry. I do not want to celebrate it.
The Fourth of July to me means freedom from tyranny, oppression, and brutality, not because of American military might, but because of the American spirit of freedom (I am hopeful it still exists). Show me this spirit of freedom!
Instead, we were treated (after the military vehicles) to a long stream of campaign and politician’s vehicles. On the Fourth of July, I do not want to celebrate the many ways government is taking my tax dollars from me. I’d rather forget it, if I could. Instead, there was a group of Obama supporters, and seemingly dozens of campaign vehicles: vote so-and-so for Treasurer, or support so-and-so for State Representative, or County Clerk, or sheriff, etc. (I wouldn’t have felt any more favorable if the supporters were for Sen. McCain instead of Sen. Obama.)
Politicizing the Fourth of July may seem innocuous to many (or most), but uncomfortable to me.
Instead, I’d rather see scores of voluntary groups and associations, celebration of family, tradition, religion, and our way of life. If that’s not enough, then perhaps banners with abstract terms like “Liberty” and “Freedom” and “Down with Tyranny” would be fine with me.
But for goodness sakes, avoid the celebration of American military might and habitual political pandering that characterizes politics on all levels these days. Make the Fourth something meaningful!